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WHO launch campaign to “stop tobacco industry exploitation of children and young people”

The World Health Organization on Friday launched a new kit for school students aged 13-17 to alert them to the tobacco industry tactics used to hook them to addictive products. 

Every year the tobacco industry invests more than USD 9 billion to advertise its products. Increasingly, it is targeting young people with nicotine and tobacco products in a bid to replace the 8 million people that its products kill every year.  

This year’s WHO’s World No Tobacco Day campaign focuses on protecting children and young people from exploitation by the tobacco and related industry. 

The toolkit has a set of classroom activities including one that puts the students in the shoes of the tobacco industry to make them aware of how the industry tries to manipulate them into using deadly products. It also includes an educational video, myth-buster quiz, and homework assignments. 

The toolkit exposes tactics such as parties and concerts hosted by the tobacco and related industries, e-cigarette flavours that attract youth like bubble-gum and candy, e-cigarette representatives presenting in schools, and product placement in popular youth  streaming shows.   

Even during a global pandemic, the tobacco and nicotine industry persist by pushing products that limit people’s ability to fight coronavirus and recover from the disease. The industry has offered free branded masks and delivery to your door during quarantine and has lobbied for their products to be listed as ‘essential’. 

Smoking suffocates the lungs and other organs, starving them of the oxygen they need to develop and function properly.

“Educating youth is vital because nearly 9 out of 10 smokers start before age 18. We want to provide young people with the knowledge to speak out against tobacco industry manipulation,” said Ruediger Krech, Director for Health Promotion at WHO.  

Over 40 million young people aged 13-15 have already started to use tobacco. To reach young people WHO launched the #TobaccoExposed challenge on TikTok and welcomed social media partners like Pinterest, YouTube and TikTok to amplify messages. 

WHO calls on all sectors to help stop marketing tactics of tobacco and related industries that prey on children and young people:  

  • Schools refuse any form of sponsorship and prohibit representatives from nicotine and tobacco companies from speaking to students 
  • Celebrities and influencers reject all offers of sponsorship  
  • Television and streaming services stop showing tobacco or e-cigarette use on screen 
  • Social media platforms ban the marketing of tobacco and related products and prohibit influencer marketing  
  • Government and financial sector divest from tobacco and related industries 
  • Governments ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship  

Countries can protect children from industry exploitation by putting in place strict tobacco control laws, including regulating products like e-cigarettes that have already begun to hook a new generation of young people. 

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